The Right Man, Part 2

When a Right Man finds a woman who seems submissive and admiring, it deepens his self-confidence, fills him with a sense of his own worth. His problem is lack of emotional control and a deep-seated sense of inferiority; so success cannot reach the parts of the mind that are the root of the problem. Colin Wilson, A Criminal History of Mankind


The Right Man is as old as time. The Greeks knew him as Hubris, whose arrogance and lack of restraint affronted the gods. The Old Testament speaks of pride going before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. But the bible on the Right Man was written by twentieth-century Canadian novelist A.E. Van Vogt.

Researching male aggression for a thriller he planned to write, Van Vogt noted a pattern in certain highly dominant men. In A Report on the Violent Male, he describes a boy whose father is detached, missing or overly strict with his son, and a mother who becomes the boy’s “ally-antagonist,” a role women will replay throughout his life. If a woman challenges or crosses him, a Right Man withdraws in a smoldering resentment and then erupts into a rage. But his dependence on and need to control his woman dooms him: If she leaves him, he must die.

Van Vogt used his research in his 1962 novel, The Violent Man. Its protagonist, Seal Ruxton, is an American expatriate who’s been accused of espionage and is being held in a Communist Chinese prison camp. A flashback recounts his marriage in the States. After his wife was incapacitated by a car accident, she was raped. Ruxton blamed her for becoming “spoiled goods”, but when she left him, he fell deathly ill: “We’re the kind of men who can’t have a woman leave us,” he explains.

At the camp, Ruxton clashes with another Right Man, the commandant. When he has an affair with the commandant’s wife and she catches him in a lie, Ruxton’s rage builds: “If she turns against me, I’ll pay her back if it’s the last thing I do.” Rage confers a murderous power. But once the storm passes, Ruxton continues to burn.

The Right Man has other names now. What sets him apart from the garden-variety toxically masculine male, however, is his dependence on a woman he idealizes and must destroy. The Right Man’s paradox and downfall is that he can’t live without her.

Betty was gorgeous—svelte, blonde, a standout. Duane’s sister Cherrie said he was attracted to Betty’s physical perfection. But her death didn’t quench his anger. After her funeral, he bitterly recounted the opportunities she cost him and said she’d tricked him into conceiving his sons. Previously in good health, Duane soon needed a coronary bypass and his gallbladder removed.

After the charges against him were dropped, he began dating a former next-door neighbor, Barbara Dean. Barbara was dowdy and wore glasses. She liked to send little gifts and Hallmark cards, and when she was excited she clapped her hands. Cherrie and Betty’s sister Jean were flabbergasted when Duane married her six months later. By the time the cold case rolled around, Barb was a slim, stylish blonde.

Can a Right Man exist without a Right Woman?


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